Statement issued by Anna Ní Ghallachair, Chairperson and Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh, Chief Executive, Údarás na Gaeltachta
There were 7,363 full-time and 437 part-time jobs in companies supported by Údarás na Gaeltachta at the end of 2020 and despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, 427 new jobs were created in Gaeltacht companies during the year. When job reductions are taken into account, there is a net reduction of 6% (481) in overall employment. The majority of this decline has been in the tourism and related sectors. The impact of the pandemic was felt in all Gaeltacht counties during 2020 and there was a reduction in employment in each of them except Co. Meath.
However, 68% were companies in which employment remained stable, in addition to the 10.5% of client companies in which employment increased during the year. On the other hand, among the sectors that saw growth in 2020 was the medical device sector which saw a 4% increase in employment, with over 700 people now employed in the sector in the Gaeltacht.
COVID-19 & Brexit
An tÚdarás launched a supports and information plan at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis in March to support Gaeltacht communities and businesses, and between these supports and supports for Gaeltacht companies to prepare for Brexit, over €7.4m was approved. Over 435 Gaeltacht companies availed of the support to address financial and supply difficulties, ensure cash flow and enhance their ability to access global online sales markets.
Údarás na Gaeltachta, in conjunction with Enterprise Ireland, approved €6.4m in support for companies based in the Gaeltacht focusing on business continuity, training, research and financial planning.
Údarás na Gaeltachta approved over €1m in supports for 413 Gaeltacht businesses through the COVID-19 Online Trading Scheme and Business Continuity Voucher, in conjunction with the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment.
Capital Provision – additional funding
Up to €20.3m in capital provision was approved during the year for the refurbishment and development of Gaeltacht business infrastructure to support employment stabilisation and develop new initiatives. These refurbishment works and business improvements will attract companies to the Gaeltacht while the recovery is taking place. An additional capital allocation of €8m was approved for Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2020, as part of the Government’s jobs stimulus programme, to upgrade part of the organisation’s property portfolio. 45 projects were included for this funding, including building refurbishment works, wastewater treatment plants, roof repairs and roof insulation. A total of 25 of the projects were started before the end of 2020 and 7 were completed.
Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies have a significant impact on both the Gaeltacht and National economies. According to ABSEI research conducted in 2020, Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies had:
These figures reflect the good value of State investment in the Gaeltacht.
Significant progress was made in the language planning process in the Gaeltacht in 2020, as language planning officers promoted the Irish language online through virtual events as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. During 2020, language plans were being implemented in 18 of the 26 Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas (LPAs). A total of 18 Language Planning Officers and four Assistant Language Planning Officers were employed to implement these plans in their relevant areas. By the end of 2020, language plans had been approved for 20 LPAs out of the 26 LPAs and one Gaeltacht Service Town (GST) of the three GSTs, with a total investment of €2.28 million for the implementation of these plans.
gteic – Gaeltacht Digital Network
The number of gteic digital hubs doubled by year end with 16 digital hubs now operating across five Gaeltacht counties. Up to 200 people are currently working in these units which have a reduced capacity of 450 desk spaces, from offices to shared work desks and when the 13 other gteic units nearing completion are fully operational there will be capacity for 700 people when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. The gteic network will be central to providing opportunities for remote working, especially for the Gaeltacht Diaspora looking to return home after the pandemic.
Support for the Community Development Industry
Údarás na Gaeltachta, in conjunction with DTCAGSM, provided administrative funding of €2.37m to 33 community development organisations during 2020, to enable them to undertake a community development programme focused on the needs of the local community, tourism, language planning, renewable energy and the gteic network, among other projects.
Údarás na Gaeltachta launched a governance and best practices manual to support Gaeltacht community development organisations, and organised online workshops to further their goals. The Gaeltacht Social Enterprise Programme was established in 2020, a training and mentoring programme to enable Gaeltacht community development organisations improve their business development skills.
Substantial progress was made during 2020 on the development of a number of key Gaeltacht projects – Coláiste Íosagáin, Seanospidéal an Daingin, Strategic Tourism Projects, the gteic digital hub network, Páirc na Mara, the Gaeltacht na hÉireann Brand, the Gaeltacht Diaspora project and renewable energy projects will all be key projects as we look forward to the next 5 years.
Údarás na Gaeltachta Chief Executive, Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh said:
“It has been a very difficult year in many ways, but we are very pleased with the level of activity and support that Údarás na Gaeltachta has been able to provide in unprecedented circumstances. Significant investment has been made in the Gaeltacht business infrastructure and the investment being made in the language in communities is at an unprecedented level.
We are extremely grateful to our partner client companies, to the community development organisations, to the Gaeltacht communities and to our State colleagues who work in partnership with us. As Chief Executive, I am extremely grateful to the staff and Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta for their dedication and support in achieving the organisation’s objectives.”
Údarás na Gaeltachta Chairperson, Anna Ní Ghallachair also added:
“2020 has been the most challenging year in recent history for communities throughout Ireland. The Gaeltacht’s response to this emergency is a source of hope and the Board is encouraged by the resilience shown to date by Gaeltacht businesses and communities. There is no doubt that additional resources will be required to achieve a sustainable recovery and subsequent development in the Gaeltacht in the coming years and an encouraging start has been made in this regard with increased and additional budgets available to Údarás na Gaeltachta for 2021.
The years ahead will be crucial for the Gaeltacht but the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta is committed to supporting the Gaeltacht communities in linguistic, cultural, social and economic matters in every way possible and, to that end, to make the case for appropriate actions and resources.”
You can download the 2020 End of Year Statement here